Category Archives: Uncategorized

Mais Oui! ;-)

French Crime FictionAh, yes, it’s time for the start of a new school term. And that means it’s time for…

…a quiz! Oh, I don’t want to hear it! You know the risks of stopping by this blog by now! ;-)


France has a long and proud history when it comes to crime fiction. And as a dedicated crime fiction fan, you know all of your French and  France-set crime fiction, don’t you? Or do you? Take this handy quiz and find out. Match each question with the correct answer. As you go along, see how many you get correct.


Ready? Pour yourself a glass of Rothschild Mouton Cadet to begin…if you dare ;-)




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Staying in Shape

Staying in ShapeThis wasn’t going to be too hard, Teddy thought to himself. A gym was a public place, but the way he saw it, that had its advantages. With other people around, he’d be less likely to be noticed. He’d even dressed the part, too. Running shorts, T-shirt, the right shoes. Nobody would probably even notice him. He glanced at the sign – The New You – and pushed open the glass double doors.

The place was just the way Drew had described it: sign-in and reception to the right, chairs, table and fitness magazine rack to the left, and everything thickly carpeted and upmarket. Perfectly-toned-and-tanned receptionist with a bonded, veneered smile. Teddy wouldn’t have to worry about the CCTV camera prominently mounted over the reception desk; Drew had told him it was broken. He was one of the managers, so he knew what he was talking about. Still, Teddy didn’t want to be there long. Receptionists sometimes had good memories for faces. He stepped over to the magazine rack, so he wouldn’t call attention to himself. He had to wait about ten minutes before he got his chance, but the Fitness Barbie behind the desk finally got up and went into the ladies’ room on the other side of the front entrance.

Teddy glanced around once, then headed back towards the gym area, grabbing a towel along the way to drape around his neck and partially hide his face. Once he was inside the gym itself, he stopped for a moment, looking for the right room. There it was – a smaller room marked ‘Group Classes.’ That’s where Emma would be, Drew had said. Teddy wasn’t sure what she might have done to piss Drew off, but whatever it was, Teddy was about to make some serious money solving the problem. And Drew had hinted that if this went well, there might be other work.

Now, Teddy looked around one more time to be sure no-one was watching him. No need to worry. These gym rats were so self-absorbed that they only paid attention to the weight they could bench-press. Narcissistic morons! He picked up a jumping rope from a basket against one wall, walked over to the door of the group class room and opened it. Good. There was only the one woman there, like Drew had said. Tall, with a nice ass and long black hair, tied in a ponytail. She looked up when she heard the door open.
‘Hello,’ she said with a smile. ‘Are you here for the Beginning Yoga class?’
‘Yeah,’ he said, getting closer to her. No sense doing anything before he could get close enough.
‘Welcome!’ She put out her hand and he shook it. ‘I’m Em. I hope you’ll enjoy the –’

It was all over in two minutes. She lay on the floor where she’d fallen, the jumping rope still wrapped around her neck. Teddy looked up. Nobody was there. He’d picked his time well – 10 minutes before the start of class. He’d have time to get out before anyone noticed him.

Teddy straightened up, brushed his hands on his running shorts and quickly left the room. He walked through the main workout area at a slightly slower pace. No sense in anyone remembering a guy hurrying through. He was supposed to stop by Drew’s in twenty minutes to pick up the money, and he’d have just enough time to get there without speeding. No sense in the cops stopping him either.

An hour later, he and Drew were sitting in Drew’s living room, an empty beer can next to each of them. They’d just started on their second ones when Drew checked his watch.
‘Almost time for the news. Wonder if it’ll be on,’ he drawled.
Teddy shrugged. ‘Might be,’ he answered. ‘Why’d you want her gone anyway?’ he asked.
Drew looked at him. ‘People shouldn’t sell gym candy on their own. Emma was branching out, getting her own supply. I tried to persuade her not to. Couldn’t convince her.’ Then he clicked the TV on.

The news had just started. ‘We have a breaking story in local news,’ said the announcer. ‘Tonight, the body of thirty-five-year-old Emily Sheridan was found in a group class room at The New You fitness center. Police are at the scene now.’
That wasn’t the right name, was it? Teddy glanced over at Drew, who had gone white. For a moment Drew’s mouth worked soundlessly. ‘What the – what did you do?’ he finally managed.
‘What do you mean?’ Teddy was completely confused.
‘My sister! You killed my sister, you sonofabitch!’
‘Your sister? I don’t –’ Then it sank in. The announcer had said Emily Sheridan. Drew had said the girl’s name was Emma.  Teddy watched as Drew’s face contorted. Then he  started to babble. ‘But I was at the right place. In the yoga class. You said tall, long dark hair. Ponytail. That’s what this girl looked like. That’s where she was.’
‘I’m going to find out what the hell happened. You better hope to God those news people are wrong.’

Drew grabbed his telephone and punched in a number. He strode out of the living room as he waited for the call to go through. The announcer’s voice kept buzzing on about thefts, fires, elections, and hot new styles, but Teddy didn’t hear a word of it. He was tempted to follow Drew around, but he forced himself to stay seated. How had this gone so damn wrong? Em. That was it. Em. She’d called herself Em. Could be Emma. Could be Emily. How the hell was he supposed to know which it was? He couldn’t very well have asked her. He’d just made a mistake, that was all.

Five minutes later Drew was back. One look at his face was all Teddy needed. He got up to leave, but Drew blocked his way. ‘You stupid sonofabitch!’ he yelled. ‘You got the wrong woman! Emma couldn’t make it to class tonight. My sister subs there sometimes. She took Emma’s place.’
‘Drew, I didn’t know. Nobody said anything. She looked how you said. How was I supposed to know?’
‘You killed my sister, you scumbag.’ Drew grabbed his arm.
‘I’m sorry,’ Teddy bleated. ‘Drew, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I –’
‘You have no idea what ‘sorry’ is, asshole. But you will.’



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All Around My Hat*

Deerstalker HatI couldn’t imagine the world of crime fiction without the deerstalker hat. Could you? Want to know the story of how I got mine? I’m honoured and excited to say that mystery novelist and fellow blogger D.S. Nelson invited me to share that story today on her fantastic blog!

Nelson’s series features retired milliner Blake Heatherington, who knows a thing or two or a dozen about hats. It’s a great series, by the way, and Blake is a terrific character. D.S. has lots of information about all sorts of hats and their origins. Come on over and visit me there, and you’ll learn all about the deerstalker! And you’ll want to check out her great blog while you’re there. Thanks, D.S.!

…and stop back here later for your regularly scheduled blog post ;-)

*NOTE: The title of this blog is the title of a song by Steeleye Span.


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Crime Fiction News Break


Links You’ll Want

Dean Street Press


Ned Kelly Awards

Bloody Scotland

Scottish Crime Book of the Year Short List

Ngaio Marsh Awards


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Would I Lie to You?*

StudyNot long ago, I invited you to be a part of a piece of research I’m conducting about what we learn from crime fiction. Before I go on, let me take a moment and thank those of you who participated for your willingness to get involved. It means a lot to me.

At the time, I promised I’d share my findings with you, and that’s what I’d like to do today. There’s plenty that remains to be done with this data, but here are just a few preliminary things I found.

Who Participated?

Let’s start with a look at the 124 people who took part in the study. You. It turns out that I was quite right to believe that you’d be the perfect experts to help me with my research.



As you can see, the vast majority of those who participated in this study have been reading crime fiction for ten years or longer, and have read twenty or more crime novels in the past year. You’re experts. You’re well-educated, too, with most of you having a university degree or more.

It is worth noting that 82% of this group of participants were female. I’d like to replicate the study with more male participants, but even as the results are, they’re interesting.



What Were the Study Questions?

I was chiefly interested in what adults learn from reading crime fiction. In particular I wanted to know whether adults learn culture through idiom in crime fiction. So my questions were focused on what participants notice, remember and find interesting. I also asked a few questions about the relationship between culture and idiom.


What Were the Findings?

Here is just a sampling of the interesting results that I found. Let’s start with the question of whether adults notice and pay attention to culture and language in their crime fiction.


What Participants Pay Attention To


As you can see, crime fiction readers (at least those of you in this study) do pay a lot of attention to both cultural information and language use. A total of 99 participants (80%) said that they mostly pay attention to language or culture in their crime fiction. And as an aside, about 50% of this study’s participants said they were most curious to learn more about the culture of the place where a novel is set once they’ve read that novel.

What about idioms? It turns out that crime fiction fans notice idioms and dialect quite often.


Participant Attention to Idiom and Dialect


A quick look at this chart shows clearly that the vast majority of people in this study (94%) always or sometimes notice it when characters use different dialects and idioms. In fact, I found that significantly more of you noticed these language aspects of the novels you read than some of the cultural aspects. That said though, there’s a significant relationship between noticing culture and noticing language and idiom. People who notice one do tend to notice the other.

Noticing is one thing. Learning is another. I was also interested in what participants have learned from what they’ve read.


Learning of Culture


As you see, most participants in this study (about 93%) have learned a lot or some things about other cultures.

If we look at the learning of idioms, we see a lot of learning there, too.


Idioms Learned


The majority of participants (67%) have learned many or some idioms. And as an aside, about half often or sometimes use those idioms in conversation.

What’s interesting here is that I also found a significant relationship (‘though not quite as statistically strong) between learning of culture and learning of idiom. In other words, learning culture and learning idiom are related.

To me, this makes a lot of sense. Research shows clearly (at least to me) that language and culture are inextricably related. So it’s logical that learning culture and learning language would be related as well.

So, back to the central question. Do adults learn culture through idiom in crime fiction? Certainly this data suggests that they learn both. It’s a bit less clear whether idiom is the most common means by which we learn culture, although I should point out that 67% of you good folks reported that your understanding of culture is increased at least somewhat when you learn idioms. And 77% reported that you see idioms as interesting ways to learn culture.

So my tentative answer to this question is that yes, crime fiction can be a very effective means to learn both culture and idiom, and perhaps culture through idiom. Thanks very much for your help with this research. I’m only just getting started, so I know I’ll be learning lots more from you!


*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by the Eurythmics.


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